The University at Buffalo women’s basketball team got junior center Cassie Oursler going Saturday.
That’s good news for the Bulls’ stretch run of the regular season.
Oursler scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five blocks in the Bulls’ 81-51 rout of Akron at Alumni Arena.
The win pushed UB into sixth place in the tightly bunched 12-team Mid-American Conference. UB improved to 18-7 overall and 8-6 in the MAC.
Oursler, the 6-foot-3 Grand Island product, is a dominating inside presence, especially in the zone defense. She ranks third in the MAC in blocks. But she had been slowed earlier this month by an ankle sprain, and she has been hindered by foul trouble. Saturday was her second straight game in double figures.
“I said this from the beginning of the year, you win a championship in my opinion by going through your big,” said UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack. “Cassie I think arguably could be one of the top two posts in the conference, but we haven’t been demonstrating that because of the lack of the ability to play free.”
Oursler had 11 points and four blocks in the first half. UB rolled to a 45-13 halftime lead.
“It was just really a fun game,” Oursler said. “The defense was on a roll and we got some solid stops. It turned into offense.”
Oursler is averaging 8.5 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. She has fouled out in five MAC games, three of which UB lost. She’s such a good shot-blocker, she has to resist going after rejections.
“Coach Jack doesn’t want me to be a shot blocker,” Oursler said. “She wants me to play defense. Today the blocks were there. It was hard not to block shots.”
“I love the fact she’s now feeling good and we’re going through her,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re going to feed her till she’s full.”
MAC race: UB has four games to go in the regular season and stands just a game behind Ohio and Kent State (both 9-5), tied for fourth. The top four seeds get a bye into the quarterfinals, which are held in Cleveland. If UB sweeps its final four it should finish fourth. If the Bulls go 3-1 they should finish fifth. That would give the Bulls a pre-quarterfinal game at home against the last-place team in the MAC Tournament. The top three teams are Central Michigan (12-2), Northern Illinois (11-3) and Ball State (11-3).
UB’s remaining games are home against Ohio and Bowling Green (3-11) and on the road at Akron (2-12) and Kent State.
More zone: UB played mostly zone defense for the second straight game. The young Akron team, which started three freshmen, made 21 turnovers and shot just 28 percent from the field.
“We’re leaning more toward zone because we can fly around a little bit more,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re going to press a little more and try to zone it. Our team seems to do better with it. And it keeps Cassie down low.”
“In our five defense,” Legette-Jack said, referring to man to man, “they seem to ball-screen with the person she’s guarding and create disadvantages for ourselves.”
Stats: UB got 17 points and 11 assists from junior guard Stephanie Reid and 15 from senior guard JoAnna Smith. Sophomore guard Gabi Bade had five points and 10 rebounds.
In the house: Attendance was 1,141 at Alumni Arena.
Up next: UB is home at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Ohio. The Bobcats beat UB, 83-55, on Jan. 4.